It’s New Hampshire Primary Day, (already?!), but I’m not going to make any predictions. Hillary? Obama? McCain? Huckabee? The polls have swung dramatically in the past week or so, in both parties. And, it seems that the country is coming to one of those cultural tipping points that only occur once or twice per generation.
Some have compared this cycle to the election years of 1992, 1980, 1960… But, perhaps it’s more like the first months of 1968, before the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. derailed all hope, as well as the campaign of Eugene McCarthy. We find ourselves in an unpopular war that nobody knows how to get out of, saddled with an lame duck President with low approval ratings, and no sitting Vice President in the race, and we’re facing some economic uncertainty ahead. Still, there is hope on both sides of the aisle.
Is it a generational tipping point? Are we as a nation heading toward a year much like that annus horribilis of 1968? Nobody knows at this point, but maybe it’s best not to look back for comparisons – everyone across the political spectrum is eager to move forward.
Matt Bai has a post in The Caucus today, cautioning against comparing Obama to the Kennedys:
Every four years, it seems, since I first became aware of politics, Democrats have been trying to transform someone into a Kennedy, almost always with disappointing results. Sometimes it’s the candidate with “youthful vigor,” like a Gary Hart or a Bill Clinton. Other times it’s been the guy with stirring anti-war speeches (Howard Dean), or a sense of ideological purity (Bill Bradley), or even just the right hair and accent (John Kerry).
Preeminent feminist Gloria Steinem reminds us that women are never front-runners, even if you’re a Clinton:
Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House. This country is way down the list of countries electing women and, according to one study, it polarizes gender roles more than the average democracy.
The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza notes an ironic twist at the post-Iowa Clinton event:
“Change,” as just about everyone in Iowa understood, had become the most important word in this Presidential campaign.
…so it seemed rather lucky that her campaign had found an event space with a version of that slogan inscribed in the architecture. But, on closer inspection, it turned out that the phrase was part of an exhibit for the mammoths, long extinct, that once roamed what is now Iowa. The skeleton of one of the beasts loomed ominously a few yards from the Clintons, and the museum’s exhibit explained that the mammoths were witnesses to change because they “watched as their world disappeared and their dominance was usurped.”
Everyone’s favorite conservative columnist David Brooks compares McCain and Obama’s opposing political cultures:
Both Barack Obama and John McCain attract independents. Both have a candor that appeals to voters and media-types alike. Both ask their audiences to serve a cause greater than self-interest. Both offer a politics that is grand and inspiring.
But they are very different men. Their policies obviously conflict, but their skills, world views and moral philosophies set them apart, too. One man celebrates communitarian virtues like unity, the other classical virtues like honor.
And finally, if you missed it in this past Sunday, there was an interesting piece in the Times’ Magazine that examines Mormonism, and why the evangelical right doesn’t seem willing to embrace Mitt Romney:
…what began as a strategy of secrecy to avoid persecution has become over the course of the 20th century a strategy of minimizing discussion of the content of theology in order to avoid being treated as religious pariahs. As a result, Mormons have not developed a series of easily expressed and easily swallowed statements summarizing the content of their theology in ways that might arguably be accepted by mainline Protestants. To put it bluntly, the combination of secret mysteries and resistance in the face of oppression has made it increasingly difficult for Mormons to talk openly and successfully with outsiders about their religious beliefs.
It’s going to be an interesting night, and an interesting (if not short) Primary season.